Summer in Churchill means beluga whales, and thanks to a partnership between explore.org, Polar Bears International and Frontiers North Adventures, webcams have gone live showing people all over the world the marine animals.
John Gunter, president of Frontiers North Adventure, says there are two cameras set up on a Zodiac boat. One is above the water and has 360-degree ability to pan around, tilt and zoom. The second camera is submerged at the back of the boat on a jib when the zodiac is going at trolling speed. The underwater camera is placed at the back of the boat, because beluga whales enjoy following boats and playing in the surf.
The cameras went live earlier this week on July 27 and Gunter is looking forward to seeing the statistics from viewers tuning in. Last fall when the polar bear camera went live there was over 55,000 hours of live footage streamed across the world.
The videos will be broadcasted for the next month. Without the help of explore.org Gunter says this wouldn’t be possible. “This boat is out in the middle of the Churchill river, with high definition cameras. There’s a lot of technological hurdles we’ve had to overcome. It’s not something that’s been slapped together with shelf products from Best Buy. Explore.org are the best at managing these live webcams. The goal here is it’s a relativity non-invasive way to bring the wild to people from all over the world, for free.”
To be a non-invasive experience, Gunter says they do two things to ensure the safety of the whales. The first being there is a prop guard around the motor of the boat, so it would be extremely hard for the whale to get hurt, and the second one being the captain of the boat this summer. Hayley Shephard has worked with marine animals for more than a decade, says Gunter, and has a lot of experience with boating. “There’s no better person in the world to be doing this.”
Gunter says there are hundreds or thousands of whales travelling and exploring the Churchill river this summer.